Posted by Philip Poole on 2009-08-24

Near-perfect weather contributed to a near-perfect first day of classes Aug. 24 at Samford University.

More than 4,600 students are enrolled for fall semester classes.  Although official enrollment totals will not be available for several days, enrollment likely will exceed the fall 2008 enrollment of 4,469 and potentially could be one of the largest in university history, according to Sarah C. Latham, Samford’s vice president for operations and planning.  Latham oversees the office of institutional effectiveness, which collects and reports enrollment data.

Samford’s Cumberland School of Law and McWhorter School of Pharmacy both began classes Aug. 17.  Beeson Divinity School begins classes Aug. 25, although about 20 first-year students were participating in an orientation Monday.

Temperatures hovered in the low 80s, with breezes throughout the day as students swarmed across campus.  Hundreds of students congregated on Ben Brown Plaza between classes and during the noon hour.

Included in the fall class are more than 850 freshmen and transfer students.  “This unusually large number of first-year students affirms the strong efforts of our faculty and staff in helping with the recruiting process last spring and through the summer,” said R. Philip Kimrey, Samford’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.  "We’ve had a record number of first-year students participating in orientation and welcome activities.”

Prior to the first day of classes, new students were involved in a full weekend of orientation activities called Connections, where they learned about university life and participated in community-building activities.  Samford president Andrew Westmoreland and his wife, Jeanna, hosted the new students for an ice cream party at their home on Saturday.  About 600 new students also participated in a pep rally Saturday as part of the final preseason football scrimmage for the Samford Bulldogs.

Several thousand students attended the annual welcome back dinner Sunday night (Aug. 23) and were part of the record crowd of more than 1,200 who attended the first soccer match of the season.  Samford and Auburn University tied 0-0.  Students will be involved in a full schedule of annual Welcome Back activities through Aug. 29.

By mid-afternoon Monday, Latham said that logistical problems were fairly routine for the opening day of classes.  She said not aware of any major glitches with scheduling or infrastructure, although there are minor problems that will need to be addressed in the next few days.

Samford’s Provost J. Bradley Creed echoed Latham’s assessment, saying that he had heard only positive remarks about the first day from an academic perspective.

Several new programs greeted students this fall, including a new living/learning community for 35 students interested in international languages and cultures.  The community is jointly sponsored by residence life and the department of world languages and cultures.

The largest number of students in Samford’s history is living in university-owned housing, Latham added.

Latham praised the Samford faculty and staff for their efforts in making the first day a success.  "It really does take a village to make an operation like Samford run smoothly.  We are like a small town that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  That is what creates a positive experience for our students."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.